Balaton, Race stage 1: Konukoglu/Brigliadori lead the way

The first part of the inaugural TCR European Endurance race is now in the books. 55 minutes plus one lap of racing gave us the names of the first outright leaders of the series promoted by Mauricio Slaviero. It comes as no surprise, after taking pole position thanks to the sum of Friday’s qualifying times, that Konukoglu/Brigliadori (Audi RS3) are the leaders at the halfway point of the event, but the action at Balaton Park Circuit did not disappoint. Attila Bucsi (Hyundai i30N) – M1RA Motorsport led the first few laps of the race, when TCR European Endurance shared the track with TCR Eastern Europe on the recently-opened track that lies close to one of Europe’s biggest lakes.

On the opening lap, behind the leading Hyundai was Aditis Racing’s Martin Kadlecik with his Audi RS3, whereas after an unfortunate qualifying session, Zoltan Barkovics (Cupra Leon DSG) – Zsille Motorsport was able to get up to fourth place, behind Turgut Konukoglu (Audi RS3) – TEXACO Team AMS who remained steadily on the provisional podium.

The race was then neutralized during its first half by a safety car in order to recover a vehicle dangerously stopped on track; at the restart, however, an incident between two drivers of TCR Eastern Europe forced the stewards to bring out the red flag and interrupt the race. Once the action resumed, it was Bucsi who crossed the line first to top the standings dedicated to TCR Eastern Europe, thus opting not to continue in the endurance race to preserve his car before Sunday’s event. The same choice was made by Kadlecik, as both the Czech and the Hungarian drivers will compete permanently in the series that raced alongside TCR European Endurance in its debut around Balaton.

One of stage one’s many twists happened on lap ten, when Barkin Pinar (Audi RS3 Gen 1) – Texaco Team AMS found himself in the gravel, thus being forced to start at the back of the grid for stage two on Sunday. A second safety car was then called out, in order to help the marshals recover the Turks’ Audi.

Soon after, the pit stop window was opened, which saw a great strategy call made by TEXACO Team AMS, calling Seda Kacan in on lap 15 to put Ibrahim Okyay in the car. The following lap, the battle for the lead was taken to the pit lane. While the Audi DSG completed a full lap out on track, Konukoglu pits as Eric Brigliadori gets in the car, Zsille Motorsport sees Balazs Takacs’ debut, though neither of them is able to beat Okyay out of the pits. The Turk is therefore promoted to the front of the pack, a historic feat for a car with DSG gearbox, which finds itself leading a TCR race thanks to the unpredictable endurance format.

Once the pit stop window for the mandatory driver and tyre change closed, the race resumes on lap 18, as Brigliadori lands the decisive blow which will then prove to be enough for the lead after stage one, keeping first place all the way to the checkered flag. There was no on-track battles between Audi and Cupra in the DSG class, but the fight is only postponed to Sunday.

The starting grid of stage two, which will be streamed live on TCR TV’s YouTube channel, is created by the final standings of the first part of the race. The TCR European Endurance show will therefore be back underway on Sunday at 10:20.


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